Grounded outlets guide surplus electrical energy into the ground instead of the device.
On top of keeping you and your electronics safe, the federal government requires homes built after 1968 to have all outlets grounded as part of the local building regulations.
If you live in a home with an ungrounded outlet, you need to enlist the services of a professional electrician to bring your home up to code.
Of course, that comes with a nominal charge.
Don’t be shocked with the electrician’s bill after the fact.
Learn the cost of hiring an electrician to ground the outlets in your home and why it will pay off in the end.
Do not attempt to ground the outlet yourself under any circumstances!
How Much Does It Cost To Ground An Outlet?
On average, it costs $200 to ground a standard 10A, 120V outlet, which includes the receptacle and the cost of labor.
You will also need to pay the electrician’s hourly fee for roughly 30 to 60 minutes of work.
To ground the outlet, the electrician will run a ground wire from the outlet to the circuit breaker, which also needs to be grounded for the outlet to function properly.
If the electrician needs to ground the circuit breaker panel as well, the work will cost another $100 to $150.
Costs Of Not Getting Your Outlet Grounded
Not getting your outlets grounded can cost more in the long run than paying to get the work done.
Some of the possible costs of not getting your outlets grounded include:
- Damaged electronics
- Medical bills
- Decrease value of the home
If you plug an electronic device into an ungrounded outlet and a surge occurs, the power sent to the device can damage it.
Occasionally, an electrical fire can occur, creating even more damage.
In most cases, warranties won’t cover the cost of damage if they learn it happened after plugging the item into an ungrounded outlet.
If someone finds themselves on the receiving end of an electric shock, it can cause anywhere from mild to severe damage.
The extent of the medical expenses will depend on the severity of the shock.
Children experience 20% of electrical shock injuries, usually occurring at home.
If you have ungrounded outlets in your home, it can lead to code violations for homes built after 1968.
Unfortunately, you won’t get clearance to sell your house with code violations.
If you can sell the home as is because it was built before 1968, many buyers won’t show interest in a home with ungrounded outlets or will request a discount on the price.
How To Identify An Ungrounded Outlet
You can quickly identify an ungrounded outlet due to its two prongs as opposed to the three prongs now customary in modern houses.
The third prong in the outlet represents the ground wire.
In 1968, the US National Electrical Code (NEC) updated its policies to require all new construction to install grounded outlets.
If your home was built recently, it likely always had grounded outlets.
However, old houses may still have some ungrounded outlets.
Proper Electrical Outlet Usage
Many electrical outlet travesties can be avoided if you follow proper electrical outlet usage.
Some of the basic things to remember include:
- Don’t power items with damaged electrical cords.
- Avoid water when by electronics.
- Unplug devices slowly instead of pulling the cord out aggressively.
- Childproof any outlets that children and pets can reach with plugs.
- Clearly label circuit box.
You also want to protect yourself by upgrading to safe outlets where necessary and ensuring that your insurance policy covers electrical fires.
Finally, avoid plugging in powerful items without verifying the product’s electrical requirements first.
Different Types Of Outlets
Having a basic understanding of the outlets in your home will help you keep your home properly wired and safe.
1. 5A, 120V Outlets
These are the standard outlets you typically see in homes that cost-effectively support most moderate electrical needs.
However, they can’t support large appliances and machines.
These outlets will either have two prongs (ungrounded) or three prongs (grounded).
2. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Outlets
For areas with high moisture levels, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and basement, GFCI outlets keep things safe by shutting down when they come into contact with too much water that creates a power surge.
You can recognize these outlets by the “TEST” and “RESET” buttons on it, which you can use to reinstate power quickly.
3. Tamper Resistant Outlets
These outlets prevent children or pets from sticking dangerous items into it using a design that only opens when it recognizes the shape of a plug.
These outlets have “TR” printed on them.
If you want a cheaper solution, look into plugs that you can put into your current outlets.
4. USB Outlets
Phones, headphones, and various other devices require USB as opposed to traditional AC plugs.
To adjust to the times, you can install USB outlets that resemble standard outlets with the addition of a USB port.
These come in especially handy near the bed and in the living room.
5. Smart Outlets
Smart outlets give you the ability to connect to the outlet using your smartphone or home assistant, such as Alexa.
This means you can control the items plugged into the outlet from the convenience of an app or voice control.
The amount of control you have depends on the device, but you will have the ability to power it on and off at the very least.
Smart outlets can contribute to energy savings due to monitoring abilities, too.
6. 20A, 120V Outlets
These outlets support the greater electrical needs of large appliances, such as refrigerators and water heaters.
You can tell them apart from standard outlets due to an additional hole near the middle prong.
7. 250V Outlets
Large air conditioners and some powerful machinery may require 250V outlets.
For outlets 240V and higher, you will need an electrician to install the outlet as well as a double-pole circuit breaker.
To provide the correct amount of energy, you also need to know the amperage of the device.
Provide all details to your electrician before getting started.
Factors That Determine Final Cost Of Grounding An Outlet
There are a number of factors that contribute to the final cost of grounding an outlet, including your home’s current wiring, the type of outlet, and your electrician’s rates.
1. Current Wiring
If your current wiring doesn’t support what you want to get out of your upgrade, the electrician may need to upgrade your current circuit box, which can cost $400 for a 200-amp system.
If you have faulty wiring, grounding the outlet won’t help keep your family safe until you properly replace the damaged wires.
Signs that you need to replace the wiring in your outlet include:
- Constant power surges
- Frayed or chewed wires
- Burn marks
2. Type Of Outlet
You can pick among a number of different outlet types.
See the following costs for each outlet (not including installation or upgrades to the electrical system):
- 120V outlet: $3 to $5
- GFCI outlet: $7 to $25
- Smart outlets: $50 to $80
- USB outlet: $15 to $25
- 250V outlet: $10 to $20
To install a new 250V outlet, you will pay a higher price of $300 on average due to the electrical upgrades required to support the amount of power.
The other outlets on the list fall into the average installation price of about $200 plus the electrician’s hourly wage.
3. Electrician’s Rates
Not only do you need to pay for the cost of the outlet and the installation, but you also need to pay for the electrician’s time.
Most electricians charge anywhere from $40 to $100 per hour.
This varies based on their experience, reputation, and location.
Electricians in large cities such as New York City will have higher pricing than electricians in small towns.
How Electricians Ground An Electrical Outlet
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GROUND AN ELECTRICAL OUTLET YOURSELF!
While you do NOT want to take on electrical projects without the proper training, you can benefit from understanding the process.
Use this step-by-step explanation to learn what your electrician will need to do when grounding your electrical outlet.
Step One: Turn Off Power
The electrician will start by turning off power to the outlet in question at the circuit breaker.
They should also check that the unit doesn’t have power using a multimeter to ensure they reduce the possibility of shock.
Step Two: Remove Cover Plate
Next, the electrician will unscrew the cover plate of the outlet, exposing the wiring which consists of the receptacle, three wires, and the handy box.
The reciprocal refers to the main component of the outlet where you plug in a device.
The three wires are the black “hot” wire, the white wire, and the green “grounding” wire.
The handy box holds the bulk of the wiring for the outlet.
Step Three: Disconnect Old Receptacle
The electrician will disconnect the old receptacle from the electrical box.
Then, they will disconnect the wires from the old receptacle.
Step Four: Attach New Outlet
The electrician will connect the new outlet with three prongs by attaching the black and white wires to the appropriate terminals, starting with the black wire.
They will not install the grounding wire at this time.
Step Five: Install Ground Screw to Back of Box
As the name suggests, the ground screw helps with the grounding process.
The electrician will attach a green ground screw to the back of the electric box.
Step Six: Attach Grounding Wire
At this time, the electrician will attach the grounding wire to the ground screw on one end and the receptacle terminal on the other end.
If they need more reach, they can use pigtails to extend the length of the grounding wire.
Step Seven: Install Outlet
Now that the receptacle has all wires attached, the electrician will connect it to the electric box and then replace the cover plate.
Step Eight: Restore Power
Finally, the job is done.
The electrician can restore power to the outlet and test that it works.
Damaged Ground Wire
Sometimes a grounded outlet can act in a way that makes you feel uneasy.
It could be due to a damaged ground wire that leaves your outlet vulnerable.
If you suspect a damaged ground wire due to increased power surges, burning, and items not getting power, use a multimeter to test the outlet.
First, set the multimeter to read AC voltage.
Next, connect the two leads from the multimeter to the two main prongs of the outlet in question.
A number should register on your device.
Next, take one lead to the middle prong.
If you get the same voltage reading as the other two prongs, the outlet is grounded.
If no results appear on the multimeter, you have a ground fault.
If you have a damaged ground wire, call an electrician to replace it with a new one or install a GFCI outlet.
Understanding Power Surges
The point of grounding outlets is to protect you and your valuables from power surges.
A power surge refers to an excessive amount of power returned to an electrical system after the current gets interrupted or a foreign force creates additional energy.
For example, if an outlet supports 120 volts, a power surge happens when a current exceeds the 120V capabilities of the outlet.
Internal power surges occur at the outlets in your home.
External power surges occur at electrical sources outside, such as power lines and transformers.
Identifying A Power Surge
Power surges range in severity from minor to catastrophic depending on the amount of energy involved.
You will recognize severe surges if they create electrical fires or electrocution.
However, not all power surges are so apparent.
If you suspect a mild or moderate power surge, look for the following signs:
- Flashing displays
- Burning smell coming from the device
- Tripped circuit
- Complete power failure of the device
Causes Of Power Surges
Power surges can occur for a variety of reasons, starting at the home.
A power surge will happen if you plug a powerful item into an outlet that can’t power it.
It can also happen when turning on various appliances, especially if you have other appliances on the same circuit.
Power surges also happen when the power company switches grids or if lightning strikes your home.
Preventing Power Surges
You need to take steps to prevent power surges in your home before they happen using the following simple guidelines.
- Educate yourself about the wiring in your home.
- Make necessary wiring upgrades/repairs.
- Use surge protector strip or install whole-home surge protection.
- Unplug electronics when not in use and during storms.
Understanding Surge Protectors
Surge Protectors protect your items from the damage of high power levels.
You can choose between a whole home surge protector or an outlet surge protector.
1. Whole-Home Surge Protectors
Service entrance surge protectors and whole-home surge protectors provide protection to every outlet in your house, but they require an upfront investment.
They work by managing surges at the main panel before it gets to an outlet.
Service entrance models install before the main breaker and require professional installation while whole-home surge protectors install after the main breaker and can offer a DIY solution for people with intermediate electrical knowledge.
2. Outlet Surge Protector
Outlet surge protectors only protect one outlet.
However, they don’t cost very much, anyone can install them, and you get more spots for items.
They manage surges at the outlet.
Keep in mind that outlet surge protectors will not work if you plug them into an ungrounded outlet.
If you live in a historic house, you may notice ungrounded outlets.
If you plan to use these outlets, you need to hire a professional electrician to ground them to prevent electrical damage.
Luckily, the average cost to ground an electrical outlet doesn’t break the bank.
However, the cost can go up substantially if you need upgraded wiring or an upgraded circuit box.
You also may choose to add some additional wiring at the same time, increasing the final costs.
Every home requires proper wiring, so the benefits outweigh the cost.
It can also increase comfort levels for you and your family, especially if you decide to install modern outlets that have USB ports or connectivity features.
Call a local electrician to give yourself peace of mind today.